Album review: MASSACRA – Day Of The Massacra

Century Media – Out Now.

Death Metal may be a much loved musical genre by many, the author of this review included, but it never was what you would describe as massively popular. The only time when things looked quite promising for this kind of music was in the early 90s – the very time when the hard working DIY-orientated French Deathsters Massacra (note: not to be confused with the equally impressive US combo Massacre) released their highly-acclaimed debut album “Final Holocaust”.

The period between the band’s formation and the release of their inaugural album witnessed high levels of activity, culminating in the release of three demos. It is these very rare and much sought-after demos that Century Media decided to finally make available to the general public and they come under the title “Day Of Massacra”.

The main problem with demos which come to us from the late 80s / early 90s concerns their sound quality but, with only a few exceptions, the thirteen compositions to be found on “Day Of Massacra” are the exceptions that prove the rule.

I am not, of course, suggesting that every single cymbal used becomes crystal clear in the final mix or that the riffs enjoy a depth and clarity comparable to those in landmark albums of this genre – far from it.

What this release offers, in abundance is the opportunity to witness the birth and first shaky steps of a very promising and truly passionate band – a band which, with the support of a label like Roadrunner, would have almost surely reached high levels of popularity back in the day.

It was a very wise decision on the part of Century Media to first present the material of the band’s 1989 “Nearer from Death” demo as these are definitely the best sounding tracks on offer. The energy-infused “Apocalyptic Warriors (Final Chapter)” sounds almost as impressive as the version on the band’s debut, “Sentenced For Life” comes across as a massive tribute to early Sepultura, whereas the seven and a half minute “Nearer From Death” finds the French quartet in experimental form.

Equally urgent but more ‘primitive’ in their appeal, the six compositions that put together the band’s 1998 “Final Holocaust” showcase Massacra’s angrier side. It is the same titled “Final Holocaust” that clearly stands out, as it is the only composition where the guitar duet Fred Duval/ Jean-Marc Tristani managed to successfully combine their numerous guitar ideas.

Closer to the Punk and the German Thrash scenes in terms of influences, compositions such as “Dream Of Violence” and “Troop Of Death” are pleasant to listen to but, in terms of compositional value – not particularly inspiring. The last four compositions of this demo collection were originally featured on band’s first ever demo, entitled “Legion Of Torture” (1987) and, though lacking the audio quality of their ‘peers’, they openly compete with them in terms of the passion and energy involved in their making – especially the hook-laden “Toxic War”.

Demo collections are targeting, by definition, the already-converted and, with new good quality albums being released on an almost daily basis, I cannot see how anybody who is not already well acquainted with the works of these French Deathsters choosing to hand over their money for “Day Of The Massacra”.

Having said that, I am sure that fans of Possessed, Sodom, early Kreator and early Sepultura will not ignore this release as it is they and they alone who will appreciate the passion, energy and vision of the music of one of the best Death Metal bands ever to come out of France!

John Stefanis

Rating: ***1/2 (3.5/5.0)

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